Info courtesy Krishnan Rangaswamy ‘Saw an article today [28July2015] in the Times of India, which does the Badaga community proud’
Times Of India
[Mumbai] Isha Jain, TNN | Jul 27, 2015
Lucknow: June 20 was an unforgettable day for this 26-year-old Thane youth, who spent 15 years of his life plucking tea leaves. It was the day Naresh Kumar got a call from an Indian Institute of Management, making him perhaps the first from the indigenous Badaga community of the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu to have entered the hallowed institution.
After belling the CAT with 94.5 percentile, the call from IIM-Lucknow evoked part joy, part worry in him. Although it sounded “like a fairytale,” the family went into the thinking mode instead of celebrating. “We barely had any funds. I got a call on June 20 and had to join on June 22,” Naresh told TOI.
Hailing from Konavukkarai village in Nilgiris district of Ooty, Naresh is one among 422 students who have got into the post-graduate programme in management in IIM-L’s 2015-17 batch.
Son of a retired stenographer at ACC Cement, Naresh has donned several hats to support his family, which lives in a one-room semi-pucca house in Thane, where they moved after his father’s transfer in the late 1990s.
While studying at SVPM School, Naresh assisted his mother in offering tutions. After school, in 2006, he joined Datta Meghe College of Engineering, affiliated to Mumbai University. To fund his education, Naresh’s father, Raghupathi, took a loan from his company. With little money to buy books, Naresh sat in his college library for hours to study. “I never bought college books. In school, we could arrange it from senior students,” recalled Naresh, adding, “There were days when we slept hungry.”
When in Class VI, he began to pluck tea leaves to add to the family income. “I hold over 15 years of experience in plucking tea leaves. And I love to pluck them even now,” he says with pride. “All my life, I have seen my father work day and night just to earn an extra penny. This is all that I could do for them,” he says. And by the time he was in Class XI, he was offering part-time tutions.
“All the money which I had saved while I worked went into paying off loans, bringing us back to square one,” said Naresh. He therefore worked hard for two years to make his dream of joining an IIM come true.
Naresh got his first cellphone when he was in the final year of college. “I could hardly afford a phone. It was a gift from my father’s boss to him for his service. My dad gifted it to me,” said Naresh. After coming to IIM-L, he has finally bought a smartphone. “My friends here downloaded WhatsApp and taught me how to use it,” said Naresh.
After he passes out two years later, Naresh said he “will let the entrepreneurial streak in me unwind. I will go back to my village and start a tea factory. In my district, agriculture is in bad shape. The tea rates for farmers have been by just Rs 4-5 in past two decades. Relatively, the market rates in this period have been more than doubled,” he says. At IIM-L, the first project he is doing is on understanding how the tea industry across the country works.